On Sunday, representatives from the United States and Brazil signed a RDT&E (Research Development, Test & Evaluation) agreement which, if ratified through both countries’ Congresses, will allow the two nations to sell each other military weaponry and jointly produce new equipment. Brazilian Air Force Gen. Raul Botelho and Navy Adm. Craig Faller signed a bilateral Agreement following a reception for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.
Reports on the Presidential meeting did not include charges by the Trump Organization to the taxpayers, but Trump was quoted as being noncommittal on whether higher tariffs on aluminum and other products will be enacted on Brazil.
The military agreement increases the ties between the United States and South America’s largest nation, signifying a further warming of a relationship which has been chilly in recent decades. Brazil’s history of ties with Russia and China had earned President Barack Obama criticism when he reached out to Brazil’s former leader, President Rousseff. Rousseff was a member of the PT, a socialist party that retains significant strength within the country. The tenuous connections grew firm when the populist Bolsonaro ran for and won the Presidency. Expectations were that Bolsonaro, who had criticized China during his election campaign, would cut ties with old allies as he reached out to the United States.
Instead, the tariff moves by the U.S. have inspired Bolsonaro to shore up economic connections to China, and the friendly relationship between Putin and Trump has encouraged the Brazilian President to forge stronger ties with Russia.
The benefits of a military agreement with Brazil will be both financial and strategic; it is always better to have allies than enemies. There is a danger, in that Bolsonaro is a divisive leader who risks empowering the hard left factions in Brazil. The United States may encounter a situation similar to that of our Turkish alliance should the country shift back to pro-China, pro-Soviet socialism, where access to American technology is made freely available to our opponents. Such a shift could be precipitous, because of the existing solid connections to both American rivals.